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  • To many, Chinese barbecue – or shaokao – is something best enjoyed while sitting on a plastic stool out on the street, after and along with a few cold beers. Hao Jiu Yi Qian (full name Hao Jiu Yi Qian Yang Rou Chuanr) is a chain that aims to recreate that kind of revelry indoor, since most of those outdoor operations have mostly been cleaned up.

    That means happy staff, bright lights and music that can come on a little – or way – too strong. It’s not the place for a quiet meal, more the place for a boozy Friday night gathering with friends. Come here if you want to squeeze into a six person booth, down cold pints of cheap Chinese Budweiser, and eat lots of meat on a stick.

    Also, every table receives complimentary cans of fresh air from Inner Mongolia, which has a pleasant, vaguely grassy smell. Make of that what you will.

    Food: If you’ve ever enjoyed Chinese barbecue before, you’ll know what’s on offer here – various meats, vegetables and more, liberally oiled and seasoned, served on skewers and cooked over coals. Here, it’s prepared at your table, with a machine that manually rotates the skewers constantly until they’re ready, when staff remove them and add them to a rack for you to grab at.

    It’s not the same as eating shaokao on the roadside, but it’s the closest you’re going to get downtown, and it has it’s highlights. The quality of the ingredients themselves is good, and the pair of dry seasonings that they hand you in sachets to dump on your plate – one spicy, one not – pack a bunch of flavor. The whole eggplant is a must. Standard pork, beef and lamb skewers are the highlights. As beer snacks, they’re almost as flawless as Japanese yakitori or Korean BBQ. Get the cold edamame to start, which arrive drenched in soy sauve, vinegar, chili and garlic. They’re probably the best I’ve ever had.

    Service: Service is clearly something that these guys are trying to do well. Free snacks while you order, attentive staff flipping your skewers and refilling your beers – they’re aiming for a kind of Haidilao-lite, which they generally manage to hit.

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SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.